- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

NEWBERN, Tenn. (AP) — Jackey Reynolds heard the tornado sirens and saw storm warnings on television, but he figured odds were good that the twisters would miss his home, so he didn’t take shelter.

“We’ve had a lot of storms before,” Mr. Reynolds said yesterday. “We’ve had a lot of sirens go off before, and nothing came of it.”

But his family was nearly killed Sunday when swarms of violent thunderstorms and tornadoes devastated communities across eight states. The death toll in Tennessee rose to 24 yesterday with the discovery of the last unaccounted-for resident. Four others were killed in Missouri and southern Illinois.

Mr. Reynolds knows now that he should have heeded the warnings. A tornado tore off his roof in the town of Bradford and tugged his house off its foundation, forcing Mr. Reynolds, his two boys and one of their girlfriends to rush into the front yard and duck into a ditch.

All four survived without injuries, but the cluster of tornadoes destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in western Tennessee.

Officials say some residents disregarded the warning sirens that go off frequently during spring thunderstorms. Other neighborhoods were too remote to hear the sirens. And in some cases, the tornadoes struck too quickly after the warnings for people to take cover.

Gov. Phil Bredesen, who surveyed the damage yesterday, said he’s ambivalent about the warning sirens.

“If they work right, they’re obviously a lifesaver. On the other hand, you worry that either they won’t go off, or they go off so often that it becomes crying wolf,” Mr. Bredesen said. “I mean, when’s the last time you heard a car alarm going off and you said, ‘Oh, my God, there’s someone breaking into a car.’”

A meteorologist said at least one tornado in Tennessee’s hard-hit Dyer County appeared to be an F-3 on the Fujita scale used to measure a twister’s strength, with winds from 158 to 206 mph, strong enough to tear down walls.

Dyer County’s emergency-management director, James Medling, said in some cases, a warning would not have helped.

“Most of the fatalities occurred in those homes that were wiped completely off, and there’s just not a lot you can do unless you’re underground in a basement,” Mr. Medling said.


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